Twenty Spitfires to fly again?

Spitfire on runway
The Spitfire's first flight was from Southampton Airport Photo: PA

Twenty "lost" Spitfires that were buried in Burma during the Second World War could return to the skies, it has been revealed.

David Cameron and Burmese president Thein Sein have agreed to work together to find and restore the historic aircraft as part of a thaw in relations.

Amateur aviation enthusiasts uncovered evidence of the Spitfires' existence years ago, but have been unable to gain access to their potential locations.

British statesman Earl Mountbatten, who lived at Broadlands at Romsey in Hampshire ordered the RAF to bury them in the summer of 1945 amid fears that they could be either used or destroyed by Japanese forces.

Within weeks, the atom bomb was dropped to end the conflict, and the brand new planes - which were in crates and yet to be assembled - were seemingly forgotten.

Experts from Leeds University have linked up with an academic based in Rangoon and believe they have identified the sites where the craft are concealed using sophisticated radar techniques.

Although around 21,000 Spitfires were built during the war effort, only 35 are believed to be in flying condition today.

Mr Cameron raised the fascinating find when he met Mr Sein for talks yesterday. Officials said the president was "very enthusiatic", and if the planes can be salvaged, some could potentially go on display in Burma.

A Downing Street source said: "The Spitfire is arguably the most important plane in the history of aviation, playing a crucial role in the Second World War.

"It is hoped this will be an opportunity to work with the reforming Burmese government, uncover, restore and display these fighter planes and get them gracing the skies of Britain once again."

The project is being funded by the Boultbee Flight Academy, which offers instruction in flying historic aircraft.

Founder Steve Boultbee Brooks said: "We hope to train future generations of engineers and pilots on how to build and fly the Spitfire through the reconstruction of these newly discovered gems.

"We're also hopeful that following their renovation we'll be able to return some of the working Spitfires back to the country, to develop a memorial flight for heritage and display purposes."

Aviation enthusiast David Cundall, who spent 15 years unearthing the whereabouts of the aircraft, said he was "delighted" that his dream was to be realised.